Kristi Heather Kenyon, a 2007 Trudeau scholar, has worked in, on, and with civil society organizations for more than fifteen years. She studies how and why civil society advocacy groups in sub-Saharan Africa mobilize around health and human rights, why they choose the messages they do, and what impact they have. Kenyon has a particular interest in HIV advocacy and in the ways culture shapes how we understand human rights. Kenyon comes to the academic world from civil society, having worked with civil society groups in the fields of HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health, international development, and torture and the death penalty in South East Asia, Southern Africa, and Canada. She is currently a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Political Science at Dalhousie University and a postdoctoral fellow in the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria.
Realizing Health Rights: Civil Society Mobilization in the Context of the HIV/AIDS Pandemic
In her doctoral thesis, Ms. Kenyon examined why civil society groups in the health sector have increasingly chosen to frame their struggles in the language of rights and, how their mobilization can lead to recognition and implementation of health rights. In the past decade health issues have moved from the margins of human rights discourse to the forefront, with international networks of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) playing a pivotal role in this transition. The acknowledgement of global inequity and its profound impact on health has pushed issues of treatment and prevention accessibility from realms of health and development to that of human rights. Networks of civil society actors have used the language of rights to campaign successfully for access to treatment and non-discrimination with respect to HIV, for malaria prevention, against infant formula, and for the illegalization of Female Genital Cutting in various jurisdictions through the coordinated action of domestic and international NGOs. Yet the path from advocacy to the realization of health rights is under-examined and little understood in the academic literature. Ms. Kenyon is investigating this phenomenon with specific reference to HIV/AIDS in Africa, a health crisis that has played a critical role in the shift towards rights language among civil society.